A Guide to the Justice Richard H. Poff Papers, 1972-2002; 2011 Poff, Richard Harding, papers, 00028278

A Guide to the Justice Richard H. Poff Papers, 1972-2002; 2011

A Collection in the
Supreme Court of Virginia Archives, Virginia State Law Library
Accession Number 00028278


Virginia State Law Library, Supreme Court of Virginia Archives

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Supreme Court of Virginia Archives, Virginia State Law Library
Accession Number
Justice Richard H. Poff Papers, 1972-2002; 2011
Physical Characteristics
37.0 cu. ft. (82 boxes)
Poff, Richard Harding, 1923-2011

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Access to confidential correspondence and judicial conference notes restricted until July 1, 2031.

Use Restrictions

Because the library is not open to the general public, researchers should contact the library to arrange access to the collection.

Preferred Citation

Justice Richard H. Poff Papers, 1972-2002; 2011, Accession #00028278, Supreme Court of Virginia Archives, Virginia State Law Library, Richmond, Va.

Acquisition Information

These papers were transferred to the Virginia State Law Library in 2004.

Biographical Information

Richard Harding Poff was born in Radford, Virginia, October 19, 1923. His father was a railroad man. He grew up in Christiansburg and attended Roanoke College in 1942 and 1943 before joining the Army Air Corps. Poff was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying 35 missions as a bomber pilot in Europe during World War II. In 1948, Poff received his law degree from the University of Virginia.

In 1952, Poff was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia. He served for ten consecutive terms and was the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon administration. When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black died in September 1971, Poff was widely viewed as President Nixon's first choice to replace Black. His nomination drew opposition from liberals because of his opposition to school desegregation in 1956, and he took his name out of consideration for personal reasons. In 1972, Poff was appointed to the Supreme Court of Virginia by Governor Linwood Holton and became the first Republican to serve on the Court in the twentieth century. Poff retired from the Court in 1988 and served as Senior Justice from 1989 to 2002.

Scope and Content

The Justice Richard H. Poff Papers, 1972-2002; 2011,are chiefly case files from Poff's tenure as a justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia (1972-1988). The collection also contains Justice Poff's correspondence, 1973-2002, and speeches, 1973-1988.

Case files contain briefs, notes, opinions, draft opinions, research notes, news clippings pertaining to the case, and some correspondence. The case file for Carolina Coach Co. v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 1974, contains an audio-cassette recording of oral arguments in the case.

Correspondence, 1973-2002, pertains primarily to Poff's professional life as a justice, but also includes correspondence with people he knew from his work on the Judiciary Committee, particularly his work on President Richard Nixon's anti-crime initiative, the Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws. Notable correspondents from his congressional career are Mary Burruss, his former congressional administrative aide; Grasty Crews II, General Counsel, House Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs; and Robert M. Morgenthau, New York County District Attorney. This series also contains a small amount of correspondence with other sitting Supreme Court of Virginia justices, Virginia political figures, with U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, Michigan Supreme Court Judge Robert P Griffin, and Theodore Voorhees, then a dean at the Catholic University Law School.

This series also includes correspondence with law clerks, applications for clerkships, letters about administration of the Virginia State Law Library, and bail reform, and personal correspondence with friends and family in Southwest Virginia, including newspaper clippings about his dissenting opinions. In a personal letter, Justice Poff compares being a judge favorably to being a congressman. Also included is a letter, 1987, from defense attorneys asking the Supreme Court of Virginia to consider changing its method of compensating counsel for indigents in capital murder cases.

The correspondence includes photographs of Congressman Poff with Governor Dalton and with his wife and children on the steps of the U.S. capitol, 1970, circa and with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., 1975, circa, as well as a copy of a photograph of Justice Poff with his class at Cave Spring Elementary School in Roanoke, 1930, circa.

Speeches, 1961 and 1974-1988, are Justice Poff's public speeches and three folders of the speeches and sermons of others, 1961-1987. This series also contains copies of programs from Justice Poff's memorial service in 2011.

Related Material

Papers of Richard Harding Poff, 1935-1972, Accession #9815, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va./ Guide available in reading room and on microfilm #770.

Index Terms


  • Poff, Richard Harding, 1923-2011.
  • Corporate Names:

  • United States. National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws.
  • Virginia. Supreme Court.
  • Virginia. Supreme Court. State Law Library.
  • Subjects:

  • Congressmen -- Virginia -- 20th century.
  • Criminal procedure -- United States.
  • Judges -- Virginia -- 20th century.
  • Judicial opinions -- Virginia -- 20th century.
  • Judicial records -- Virginia -- 20th century.
  • Form/Genre:

  • Audiocassettes.
  • Black-and-white photographs.
  • Clippings (information artifacts).
  • Correspondence -- Virginia.
  • Law clerks -- Virginia.
  • Sermons -- Virginia.
  • Speeches -- Virginia.

Adjunct Descriptive Data

File Plan

Box and folder list available.

File Plan

Box and folder list available.